Friday, October 15, 2010

transitions: when God calls

You ever feel like you've been pulled into something that you are really not equipped or any way prepared for? I have. I truly felt that God called me to lead a group of teenagers on a missions trip to Tampico, Mexico but I knew that was a huge step of faith and a stretch of my leadership abilities. As if that wasn't trying enough, the day after we arrived, I was the only adult leader of 20 other adult leaders to be "volunteered" to take a bunch of teen girls into the city to play volleyball against an all teen girl's jail. Once we arrived at the jail, I was informed that I couldn't stay on the premises and that I had to go back to the village where we were staying. The village was only about 10 miles away, but Tampico is a metro-plex of nearly a million people and none of the roads are straight and none of them have two-way traffic. A local young adult girl road shotgun in the big 15 passenger van on the way to the jail, but I had to return by myself. Talk about feeling overwhelmed and intimidated! I asked the young lady how to get back and she told me to just follow the signs that say "puente" (bridge) since the village was located in the foot of the rather large Tampico Bridge. She also said to simple say, "el puente" to someone if I got lost. Well, you guessed it, I found myself at a stop sign in front of a small grocery/deli over looking what appeared to be a part of the city made of cardboard boxes and blue plastic tarp without any idea where to go or what to do. I started to feel very uncomfortable at that point. Since there wasn't any traffic behind me, I bowed my head and prayed, "Dear Jesus. I know You sent me to this place. I know you have more work for me to do. So, if You want me to use this very episode to bring You glory, please, please please help me get back to that stupid ole bridge! Amen." I looked to my right and saw on older gentleman sitting on a park bench in front of the store reading a news paper. I pushed the automatic window button down and, in my very weak and broken Spanish said, "Como, senor, el puente?" The fellow looked right at me, slowly stood up, snapped the paper folded, stuffed it under his arm, turned to his right, pointed straight ahead and said in a rich, baritone, ENGLISH voice, "The bridge is that way, young man!" That's when I cried... I put the van in drive and five minutes later found myself in the comfort and safety of my friends.

There's this other guy, a guy in the Old Testament book of Judges, that found himself being called to something he felt he was totally unprepared for. His name was Gideon and you can read the whole account here & here.

The narrative of Judges 6 opens with a record of the renewed idolatry of Israel. This time judgment came from the Midianites who swept down through the plain of Jezreel, terrorizing Israel as far south as Gaza. They didn't permanently occupy the land, but each harvest season they would arrive unexpectedly and plunder the harvest. What spoil they could not carry away they destroyed. So insecure were the Israelites that they lived in dens, caves, and strongholds to seek safety for their possessions and for themselves.

But suddenly things changed. A stranger appeared under the great oak by Ophrah, a little township on the southwestern border of the territory of Manasseh. There Gideon, the son of Joash, was beating out wheat with a stick. He did so secretly and with constant apprehension that a wild band of Midianite Bedouins might sweep down on him, taking his grain and his life.
Although the stranger called him a "mighty warrior," Gideon's clandestine operations at his father's winepress did not exhibit great valor. For seven years his people had been oppressed by the enemy and this mighty warrior was despondent and discouraged. This stranger appeared to him at his lowest point to call him to the great work of God.

Gideon was startled at first by this stranger, not certain who he was. When the he proclaimed that the Lord was with Gideon, Gideon's questioning response was, "If the LORD is with us,
then why has all this happened to us?" Gideon believed that if God had not withdrawn Himself from Israel, the present Midianite occupation would never have occurred. As well, this mighty warrior, like Moses of old, questioned why the Lord would choose him to deliver Israel. His family was poor in Manasseh and he was the least of his father's household. But in the midst of Gideon's concern he heard the promise of God, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together." Point #1, When God calls you, He sees you as He created you, not as you see yourself!

Gideon was still not convinced this was an encounter with God. How did he know this person was really the angel of the Lord? Gideon asked for a sign to prove that he was, in fact, being called to serve the Lord. He started to worship God by preparing a sacrifice of a goat and the makings of unleavened bread knowing that if the stranger accepted his worship he would know that the stranger was delivering the truth. Not only did the stranger accept Gideon's offering He sent fire from heaven to consume the goat and bread of His servant. At that moment Gideon knew he was not in the presence of some nameless angel or unknown stranger, but in the very presence of God! After Gideon freaked out a bit, God placed His loving arms of peace around him and assured him that he is the man God wants for His own good purpose. Point #2, When God calls you, He reveals Himself in Worship!

Gideon understood the gravity of his calling, God gave him the authority to dismantle pagan alters that his family built and worshiped at. In fact, he stood against all the wrongdoing of the people in his home town and gained respect as a judge of the people on behalf of God. So, when God called him to deal with Midianite problem, men from all over the Promised Land enlisted to stand by his side! A whole nation of oppressed and frightened people were energized by the passionate response to a Godly calling of a single obedient person! Point #3, When God calls you, He equips you with passion and authority that will rub off onto other people!

Even though Gideon fully understood his calling and knew his purpose, he still needed assurance that he was on the right track. Some have said that Gideon lacked faith before attacking the Midianites, because he laid out fleeces; not once but twice. I feel that he just needed assurance that he was still in God's will. Think about it... a young, seemingly weak farmer leading nearly 32,000 other seemingly weak farmers into battle against a countless number of conniving, ruthless assassins... Yeah, I'd probably want to make sure I was hearing God correctly, too. Asking God to confirm His will isn't about doubt or fear but about timing and direction! Point #4, When God calls you, He will confirm you!

Point #5, When God calls you, He wants all the glory! This is the best part of the story! Gideon was all ready to take to the field of battle when God tells him to pair down his army. When it was all said and done, there were only 300 men left to fight with Gideon. Why? Because God wanted to prove that Israel needs Him in order to succeed! He wanted to show His people what can happen when He takes control. If you don't get anything else in this blog, get this point because your calling is not about you!

Oh, one last point. The night before Gideon and his 300 warriors were to attack, Gideon snuck into the enemy camp. While there, he heard an enemy combatant interpret the dream of his friend. This is what he said, "This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands." That's when Gideon cried! Yep, right there in the midst of his enemies, Gideon worshiped God! At that very instant, he knew the battle - had - already - been - won!!! Point #6, When God calls you, He goes ahead of you!

So, embrace your calling. God wouldn't have called you if He knew you couldn't do it. He will reveal Himself even further when you worship Him for calling you do do His work. He will equip you and give you everything you need to get the job done. Keep asking Him to confirm His will and I promise He will! Don't worry about fame, God is going to receive it all for Himself, you get your reward later! And, don't forget, God has already gone before you and getting everything ready for you to effectively answer His call!

'Nough said!

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